仙人洞

Xianrendong - Xiānrén dòng - Xianren Dong - Immortal Cave - Xianren Cave - Shennongyuan - Fairy Cave


Useful Information

Location: Dayuan Township, im Wannian County
(28.7362898, 117.1733200)
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Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave ArchaeologyXianren Dong
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=14 m, W=11 m, H=7 m.
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Bibliography: Xiaohong Wu, Chi Zhang, Paul Goldberg, David Cohen, Yan Pan, Trina Arpin, Ofer Bar-Yosef (2012): Early pottery at 20,000 years ago in Xianrendong Cave, China In: Science, Vol. 336, Nr. 6089, June 2012, pp. 1696–1700, doi:10.1126/science.1218643. Science pdf
Address: Xianren Cave, 711 County Rd, Wannian County, Shangrao, Jiangxi 335513, Tel: +86-793-387-3061.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1962-1964 first excavation reveals 22 hearths and 3 trash pits in thick upper and lower cultural levels.
1993, 1995 excavation by the archaeologists of the Beijing University, the Jiangxi Institute for Archaeology and the American Richard MacNeish.
2012 discovery of oldest pottery of the world published in Science magazine.

Description

仙人洞 (Xianren Dong - Immortal Cave) is famous for the 20,000 years old human remains which were discovered inside the cave. The prehistoric pottery shards bear evidence of early rice cultivation. The name of the cave refers to the Xian, legendary Chinese immortals and enlightened people. 仙人洞 actually means Cave of the Immortals or Fairy Cave. As a result, there are actually numerous Xianren Caves in China, all of them archaeological sites. The cave is also sometimes called Shennongyuan after the God of Farming.

As always with archaeological caves, it is actually not a big cave, it is a shelter, little more than an overhanging rock, with a diameter of about 14 m. It is located at the foot of the limestone hill only a few meters above the level of the river. It became quite famous with a 2012 publication in the Science journal. The authors announced that the earliest pottery yet known anywhere in the world was found at this site, dated by C14 to between 20,000 and 19,000 years BP. Scorch marks on many pottery fragments suggested that the pottery was used for cooking. This pottery was made by hunter-gatherers during the Late Glacial Maximum long before the invention of agriculture.

The cave is known and excavated since 1962. This early excavation revealed 22 hearths and 3 trash pits in thick upper and lower cultural levels. The finds included simple Early Neolithic potsherds, bone and clam-shell tools. In the 1990s, a Chinese-American team of archaeologists tested and sampled Xianrendong and Diaotonghuan. Two levels of different time periods were excavated. The upper level contained rough sandy potsherds and perforated shell tools with 1-2 holes. The lower level contained snails and other aqueous faunae, but no potsherds.

Nearby of the cave is a second shelter named 吊桶环 (Diaotonghuan) which is often translated overhanging rock. There are two overhanging rocks which form a sort of natural bridge. It is located 800 m southwest of the Xianrendong and 60 m above the plain.